Minnesota drops 7 of 10; Suns improve to 27-4

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With the youngest roster and the best record

in the league, the Phoenix Suns are looking forward to many more

challenges like this as the season moves on.

On Tuesday night, they passed an important test in holding off

the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Amare Stoudemire scored 34 points before his ejection to help

the Suns overcome Kevin Garnett's franchise-record 47 points and

beat the skidding Timberwolves 122-115.

"It's important for us to beat some of the more experienced

teams around the league," point guard Steve Nash said, "and learn

some lessons and continue to grow."

Minnesota trailed by 19 midway through the fourth quarter before

rallying within five with 68 seconds left, but the Timberwolves --

an early favorite in the Western Conference -- lost for the seventh

time in 10 games and fell to 16-13.

Shawn Marion added 28 points, Nash put up 20 points and 16

assists and Phoenix withstood the late charge to improve to 14-1

since a 97-93 home loss to Minnesota on Dec. 4.

"That was probably the most exciting game we've played this

year," said Stoudemire, who used several soaring dunks to shoot

15-for-19 and follow up Sunday's career-high 50-point performance

against Portland.

Sam Cassell scored 24 points for Minnesota, and Wally Szczerbiak

finished with 20 points.

The game got a little out of hand toward the end. A frustrated

Garnett drew a technical foul for talking trash with Steven Hunter,

and Stoudemire picked up his first technical a few minutes later.

"Everyone's energy was up, so I have to be more careful," said

Stoudemire, who claimed Garnett was hooking his waist while playing

defense in the post.

Fouled hard by Latrell Sprewell on a dunk with 5:09 remaining,

Stoudemire tossed the ball at Sprewell -- who returned the favor.

Both players were given technicals, meaning an automatic ejection

for Stoudemire with Phoenix leading 116-100.

That woke Minnesota up. Szczerbiak's 3-pointer capped a 10-0

spurt and cut it to 116-110 with 2:09 left, and his three-point

play with 1:08 remaining pulled the Wolves to 118-113.

Still down by five, Garnett missed a 3-pointer with about 30

seconds on the clock, and Marion got a quick dunk at the other end

to seal it.

"We got fired up," Garnett said. "We sort of took the game by

the horns. We've got to start the games like that. We've got to

start with that fury and some of the fire."

Quentin Richardson scored 16 points, and Joe Johnson had 11 for

Phoenix (27-4), which owns the NBA's best scoring average -- more

than 109 points per game -- and shot 70 percent in a 38-point first


The Suns aren't just fast -- they can jump out of the gym, too.

None of the Wolves' rebounds or short shots came easy, because

somebody in a purple jersey was almost always up in the air with


Early in the fourth quarter, Eddie Griffin had his shot blocked

in the lane three straight times -- first by Stoudemire and then

twice more by Hunter. Marion praised Hunter's help off the bench in

guarding Garnett, who had to work hard for that career-high 47.

"It was what it was for the crowd, but you know we still lost

and defending our home is something we take a lot of pride in,"

Garnett said.

The Wolves did a lot of lobbying for fouls that referee Steve

Javie and his crew wouldn't give them, but their inconsistent

perimeter defense again proved to be the biggest problem.

"That's been our Achilles' heel," coach Flip Saunders said.

^Notes:@ Szczerbiak (2003) and Tony Campbell (1990) were Minnesota's

previous record holders for points in a game with 44. ... Phoenix

hopes backup point guard Leandro Barbosa (chicken pox) will be

available for Saturday's game at Los Angeles against the Clippers,

coach Mike D'Antoni said. ... Timberwolves center Michael

Olowokandi, who sat out Saturday's game with a bruised right knee,

returned to the starting lineup and was removed less than three

minutes into the game. He wound up scoreless with three fouls in 10

minutes. ... Center Jake Voskuhl, taken off the injured list on

Monday, replaced Hunter when he fouled out late in the fourth

quarter. ... Minnesota played consecutive home games for the first

time since Nov. 6-9.